Incentive Funds Grow for WOR

New orchard planted where chips from previous orchard were disked back into the soil. Benefits include increased water holding capacity, reduced nitrogen loss due to leaching and increased soil diversity. There is no evidence that the practice is associated with re-plant disease. Photos courtesy of Cecilia Parsons.

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s incentive program for Whole Orchard Recycling has proved so successful the program’s initial $1 million in funding was increased this year to $5 million.

Brian Dodds, program manager for grants and incentives at the air district said that 137 almond orchard recycling projects have been completed or approved by the district this year. Another 20 orchard recycling projects are in review, but there are still funds remaining for growers who are considering almond orchard removal and recycling.

Growers with approved applications are reimbursed in the range of $300 to $600 per acres with a maximum of $60,000 per grower. After the whole orchard recycling project has been completed, growers receive their reimbursement within four to six weeks. Orchards must be located within the eight county area of the Valley and verification of the work will be made by the air district.

Growers who are interested in the program should contact the air district and begin the application process prior to tree removal. The program is aimed at lowering orchard removal costs for those growers who are considering whole orchard recycling for the first time as an alterative to burning.

Whole orchard recycling is a process that includes uprooting trees, chipping the trees and incorporating the chips into the orchard soil. Research has shown that in addition to being a value-added alternative to burning, the benefits of the program include increased soil organic matter, development of positive microbial communities in the soil, carbon storage in the soil and improved water retention due to the organic matter. There has been some research showing potential yield increases in the next orchard planted where whole orchard recycling was done.

Another source of funding for whole orchard recycling is the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Healthy Soils program.

CDFA’s Environmental Farming Scientific Committee heard recently from Almond Board of California director of Ag Affairs Josette Lewis on whether whole orchard recycling should be included in the agency’s Healthy Soils Program. The committee was considering a proposal to require immediate replant after orchard removal. Lewis emphasized industry members’ continued commitment to whole orchard recycling and the industry’s Almond Orchard 2025 Goal. Lewis also questioned the immediate replant requirement noting that greenhouse gas emission levels would be lower without immediate replant.

The committee voted to approve whole orchard recycling for the Healthy Soils program without the replant requirement. This action opens funding for growers who want to recycle their orchards through the Healthy Soils Program beginning in January or February 2020.